If you have been following my running journey with Nike that started a few months ago with a prep to Nike 10K race in London’s Victoria Park in June, you know that I surprised myself with finding unexpected pleasure in running: it’s free, it’s good for your health, it’s available anytime for anyone and all you need is a pair of trainers and a good playlist.
Anticipation of how great a run can make you feel can take you far – and before I knew it I got signed up for another 10K of endorphins by Vitality UK, the health and life insurance that rewards people for being healthy, and the title sponsor of the Vitality British 10k London Run which celebrates its 15th anniversary this year. ‘No pressure!’ I thought to myself on a cloudy Sunday morning heading to Green Park tube station where the race kicked off.
Fast-forward an hour, or rather 29:44 min for Assefa Bekele, a 21 years old athlete who absolutely smashed the race, and I’ve got some learnings from this fast runner to keep me going and maybe motivate you to do a 10K too. Read on.
Having been placed at the front of the British 10k race, when fast runners disappeared into the horizon of Piccadilly Street I automatically tried to match their race only to realise that my body is not agreeing with it meaning that I took the next kilometre or two to adjust and find my own pace. When the nerves calmed down a little I noticed the amazing backdrop that made this run the most amazing I’ve ever done.
Starting on Piccadilly outside The Guards & Calvary Club, we ran by WW2 bomber command memorial which was unveiled by HM Queen Elizabeth 11 in June 2012 passing by The Ritz, St. James’s Palace, Trafalgar Square, Big Ben, the British Houses of Parliament, and the historic Westminster Abbey before finishing on Whitehall (the portal of British Government) at the junction of Royal Horse Guards and Banqueting House after passing Downing Street and The Cenotaph, the national memorial to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. If you are curious, click on the British 10k race route to see the exact map of the run.
The Vitality British 10k is run on roads closed to traffic meaning that the entire heart of London was at the disposal of 30,000 runners and many more supporters and onlookers to enjoy. With such a gorgeous route (when else would I follow the route of London’s most famous sights looking at them from what normally is the natural habitat of cabs and buses!) and empowering support of the crowd I managed to shave a few minutes off my previous 10k timing finishing at my personal best of 57:35. Curious what it takes to do even better in a race like this, I am thrilled to shed some light on how the male finisher Assefa Bekele took 29:44 mins to complete the race.
With his whole life revolving around his athletics, Assefa trains 6 days a week. Up at 5.15 most days for training with his professional training group coordinated by his management Moyo Sports, a UK based agency working with Brits, Ethiopians and Kenyans, he rests and sleeps and eats and catches up with friends when not training. Sunday he never runs as this is the rest day. I asked Aseefa a few questions and he revealed a few secrets of his running success (spoiler alert: you need to work hard for it!)
What is your biggest highlight from The British 10k race? There are two: simply being in London as I have dreamt of running abroad all my life and had only ever seen London on TV; and to win the race on my first ever trip outside my country.
How often do you run and how different is The British 10k from the previous races you did? My management has a professional training group and we run 6 days a week with a rest day on Sunday. All my races up to now have been in Ethiopia. I have run so many times there but never had a chance to race internationally. These races are at altitude and it is very hot in Ethiopia so the biggest difference is the weather – cold and a bit wet at the start – and that I am at sea level in London.
How do you run so fast? Is it training? Is it all ‘in your head’ as many people tell me? It’s a combination. I believe I am a good runner and believe I will win races as my training has gone well. I had confidence from coming 2nd in a local race last month in Ethiopia so I knew I can beat others. But it is a lot of hard work in training, with my coach, with my fellow training mates – we work as a team and we encourage each other – we are up at 5:15am every morning, sometimes train twice a day but vary our type of training; on the road, forest, hill work, gym, speed work on the track. I am disciplined as I know that this is the only way I can improve my situation as well. To win in London is the best day of my life so far.
What goes through your head when you run? To stay relaxed, focus on the road in front, keep an eye on my rhythm and pace and vision winning.
What can you recommend to people who want to improve their results? Work hard, train well and don’t miss sessions in the lead up to a race. Only you can make the difference. So it does take some discipline. But also try to run with friends and others, not just on your own. You will enjoy it and improve at the same time for the next race.
What’s next for you? I take it easy for one or two days but on Wednesday I am back to full training with my group for 5/6 weeks and then my plan is to come back to UK and run half marathon.
Now that you’ve seen enough embarrassing pictures of me struggling through the race, have a look how Aseefa is gracefully running in the pic below (in purple). Next time I will need some professional advice on how to keep a straight face while running 😉
Once again, thanks to Vitality, the health and life insurance that rewards people for being healthy, who is the title sponsor of the Vitality British 10k London Run which is one of nine events in the Vitality Run Series.